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Costco Vows To Do Something About Its Long-Begrudged Milk Jugs

One investor called out this "daily irritant" during the company's recent shareholders meeting.

Costco members have so many things to praise about their beloved warehouse club: the carefully curated selection, the perceived value, and the highly ballyhooed quality of its many products, for instance.

Then there are the seemingly inflation-proof, price-fixed items, such as the Costco food court's famous hot dog combo for $1.50 and the deli's irrepressible rotisserie chicken for $4.99.

One sore spot, however, that has long frustrated members is Costco's milk. Not the actual liquid, per se, it's the packaging that's the problem.

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Back in 2008, Costco and other retailers introduced newly redesigned gallon-sized milk jugs that were intended as a major improvement. According to The New York Times, the weirdly square-shaped jugs were cheaper and easier to ship, and that lowered the price for consumers, too. The more efficient containers were also said to be better for the environment. Nobody had any issue with those intended perks.

Trouble is, customers found these restyled jugs unwieldy and difficult to pour without making a huge mess. Costco has apparently tried several times to correct the packaging problem, but the complaints keep coming up.

There are numerous Reddit threads on the topic, dating back to at least 2014: "75% of the time [the milk jugs] leak and leak badly when pouring," one poster commented. "These seem to be designed without the consumer in mind… I would gladly pay a dime more for better packaging." The most recent online gripe session came just a few months ago: "Does anyone actually like these?" one poster pondered. "They are trash," another grumbled.

At least one entrepreneurial Costco member tried to market a milk jug attachment that promised to make the containers easier and less messy to pour. The product's website is no longer active, however, and messages sent to the corresponding Facebook page went unreturned.

The issue of Costco's tricky milk jugs came up yet again last week, during the company's annual shareholders meeting.

"Is Costco ever going to get its milk jugs designed so that they don't dribble down the side of the jug when you pour?" one investor asked point-blank during a Q&A session with company officials. "I have been complaining about this for 10 years and it is a daily irritant. All other products are so consumer driven."

After thanking the investor for complimenting all the "other products," Costco CEO Craig Jelinek said the company would keep trying to solve the milk jug problem once and for all.

"You know, the milk jug is something that we've probably been working on for 15 years," Jelinek said. "In the last four years, we thought we improved it and fixed this problem with our last engineering that we did on the bottle." He added, "I haven't heard many complaints recently."

Jelinek noted that Costco uses many different bottlers and suggested that the lingering problem could be regional. In fact, not all Costco locations carry the same style of milk jugs.

"We can certainly look at some of the bottlers and see where the problem may be—if it's in the container, if it's how it's being bottled," Jelinek said.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris
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